Imagine getting accurate, reliable information on everything from breastfeeding
to eating well in pregnancy and when to visit the clinic, directly on your cell
is the power of health that the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) is
putting in the hands of expectant and new mothers with the launch of MAMA in
launch of MAMA is especially potent in a country where the maternal mortality
ratio (MMR) is estimated at 300 per 100 000 live births (2010 figures, CIA
World Fact Book) and at a time when 3.1 million newborn deaths occur every year
across the globe.
with 1 billion women in the developing world now owning a mobile phone, putting
the power of health in the hands of pregnant and new mothers can directly
assist in reducing South Africa’s MMR from the 300 per 100 000 live births
baseline to 270 by 2014 (as set out by the Department of Health’s Strategic Plan For Maternal, Newborn, Child
and Women’s Health and Nutrition in South Africa).
Africa now joins Bangladesh in the implementation of MAMA’s innovative
maternal, newborn, and child health solution that delivers culturally
sensitive, vital health information through mobile phones to mothers living in
widespread use and availability of mobile phones provides MAMA with a powerful
channel to support and educate mothers, providing them with life-saving
information through an intimate medium. The latter is particularly important in
a country where 30% of pregnant mothers are HIV-positive (with many learning of
their diagnosis for the first time when they are tested antenatally) and 40% of
maternal deaths are related to HIV/AIDS.
those attending MAMA South Africa’s national launch at the Wits Reproductive
Health and HIV Institute (WRHI) in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, was MAMA Global
Director, Kirsten Gagnaire – whose extensive experience in Africa includes her
previous role as Ghana Country Director for the Grameen Foundation.
national launch of MAMA South Africa and the partnership with the Vodacom
Foundation is a significant step for more moms living in poverty, many of whom
are living with HIV, to access culturally sensitive, vital health messages to
improve their lives and the lives of their babies,” Gagnaire says.
mother should have access to health information delivered in a timely,
accessible manner. Through innovative public/private partnerships like this, we
have the opportunity to put the power of health in every mama’s hand.”
in 2011 in the USA, MAMA is a partnership of USAID, Johnson & Johnson,
United Nations Foundation, mHealth Alliance and BabyCenter. South African
partners in MAMA’s national rollout are Praekelt Foundation, Cell-Life, WRHI
and Vodacom Foundation.
a contribution valued at R480 000, a total of 6000 Vodacom subscribers
accessing the newly built Shandukani maternal health centre in Hillbrow, where
Vodacom is a founding sponsor, are now able to also access critical maternal
health information via SMS. These SMSs will provide the expectant mothers with
a full set of 174 MAMA SMSs that will be based on the woman’s gestational
stages. The SMS will run from the day of the opt-in until the baby is one year
partnership with the Vodacom Foundation includes the hosting of MAMA South
Africa’s mobile service on Vodacom’s Vodafone Live, reaching over 30.6 million
Vodacom customers. Partnering with MAMA SA supports Vodacom’s belief that its
mobile communication technology can help address some of the country’s most
pressing humanitarian challenges in the areas of education, health and
use of mobile technology in the MAMA project will make health awareness
accessible to all women, regardless of their geographical location,” comments
Vodacom’s Chief Officer: Corporate Affairs, Maya Makanjee. “Furthermore, most
maternal and child mortality incidents
are preventable, and awareness through the use of mobile technology will play a
key role in addressing these incidents.”
SA’s goal is to take the project to scale and reach 500 000 mothers in South
Africa in two years,” explains Gustav Praekelt of Praekelt Foundation, MAMA’s
technology partner which builds open source, scalable mobile technologies and
solutions to improve the health and wellbeing of people living in poverty.
At the launch, Praekelt demonstrated how
MAMA works on a mobile phone, referencing the fact that its test phase has
already seen 2224 registered users from clinics receive over 82 000 SMSes with
close to 15 000 unique users accessing the mobi site.
MAMA South Africa consists of an SMS programme offered through two clinics in
Hillbrow, Johannesburg, a dynamic community portal (askmama.mobi) and a
USSD-based interactive quiz service. MAMA South Africa aims to expand to
include voice services for mothers with low literacy, and a portal on MXit – a
popular mobile social network. The national rollout is expected to be enhanced
by additional partners assisting in taking MAMA SA to scale and an awareness
campaign, driven through the mobile networks, the media and clinics.
all mamas, old and new, know how to take care of their babies or how to take care
of themselves when they are pregnant or when they are about to deliver,” says
registered MAMA user, Ntando Khumalo, who is expecting a baby.
another user, Letty Mafu, “There is a big need for information. I don’t want
anything to happen to my unborn baby. I like to know everything.”
joined when I was pregnant,” says 23-year-old Paneshe Chipikiri, mother to a
three-month-old baby. “They (MAMA) taught me what to put in my bag and the
danger signs to rush to the hospital so I didn’t have any problems with my
Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute is a key partner in MAMA SA’s
rollout – which has, among its aims, the improved health outcomes and reduced
mortality for HIV-infected women and their children. WRHI’s contribution also
includes funding an additional 6000 non-Vodacom subscribers at both the
Shandukani Maternal & Child Health Centre and the Esselen Street Clinic.
Dr Eugene Sickle, Deputy Executive Director: Strategy & Development and Dr
Vivian Black, Director: Clinical Programmes both attended the launch.
an Institute we are committed to improving the health of all South Africans. We
are specialists in reproductive health so we are particularly committed to
ensuring good health care for mothers and their infants. We are delighted to be
partners in this important initiative to improve South Africa’s maternal and
child health outcomes,” said Dr Black.
launch of MAMA South Africa aims to speed up the country’s progress in reaching
Millennium Development Goal 4 (reducing mortality of children under 5 years of
age by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015), and Goal 5 (reducing maternal
mortality by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015).
MAMA SA’s impact is being felt by the mamas who need it most. As user Sibongile
Sabanda puts it, “It (MAMA’s SMS service) makes me a better mother because now
I learn I must talk to her (my baby) and sing to her sometimes so she’s happy.”
Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) is an innovative public/private
partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID),
Johnson & Johnson, the United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation), the
mHealth Alliance and BabyCenter. MAMA engages an innovative global
community to deliver vital health information to new and expectant mothers
through mobile phones. MAMA began as a multi-million dollar investment to
create and strengthen programmes in three countries – Bangladesh, India and
South Africa – and to enhance global capability of new and existing mobile
health information programmes for moms in those countries and beyond.
Praekelt Foundation is a technology incubator that develops mobile technology
solutions for social good. The organisation is a not-for-profit entity that
develops innovative, open source mobile solutions offering life-saving
information and services to people in Africa and other emerging markets.
Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute is one of the largest research Institutes
of the University of the Witwatersrand. Established in 1994 as the Reproductive
Health Research Unit (RHRU) under the leadership of Professor Helen Rees, OBE,
the Institute was formed on 1 October 2010 through a merger with Enhancing
Children’s HIV Outcomes (ECHO) and has evolved into one of the largest
programme implementation, research and training units of its kind in
sub-Saharan Africa. The Institute works with Government at a national and
provincial level and has offices in Johannesburg, Klerksdorp, Vryburg, Mafikeng
and Emgwenya (formerly Waterval Boven, Mpumalanga). Key research sites include
Yeoville, Hillbrow and Emgwenya.
is a non-profit organisation that provides technology-based solutions for the
management of health in developing countries. It aims to address health-related
challenges, such as distribution of antiretroviral treatments, continuous
patient monitoring and evaluation, and collection and communication of
information. This is achieved through the use and development of innovative
software supported by existing technologies such as mobile phones and the
Internet, in a manner that is appropriate for a developing country context.
Gagnaire is the Global Director of the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action
(MAMA), a partnership between USAID, Johnson & Johnson, United Nations
Foundation, mHealth Alliance and BabyCenter. Prior to MAMA, Gagnaire was the
Ghana Country Director for the Grameen Foundation and led the initial implementation
of MOTECH. She was the Founder of the
Social Enterprise Group (SEG) and Sustayne, and has a depth of experience and
passion for addressing social and environmental issues through profitable
business ventures. Gagnaire was a consultant with KPMG Peat Marwick,
specialising in management, technology, and organisational development
consulting for health and human service agencies.
Eugene Sickle has a doctoral degree in Synthetic Organic Chemistry from the
University of Cape Town and considerable post-doctoral experience in the area
of Medicinal Chemistry. After several years in academia he moved to the WRHI to
lead the Institute’s USAID-PEPFAR programme and to head the Strategy and
Development Department. Dr Sickle is an expert in strategic financial and
Vivian Black, Director of Clinical Programmes, is responsible for leading the
clinical technical teams in providing technical support to the organisation and
to the Department of Health and Social Development. Dr Black joined WRHI in
March 2003 and worked in HIV prevention. She has been involved in initiating an
integrated antenatal antiretroviral clinic at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg
Academic Hospital and in the development of the Institute’s maternal health
team. Prior to joining WRHI Dr Black worked in internal medicine and
microbiology. Dr Black is a member of the South African National AIDS Council,
where she is the Civil Society Chair of the Treatment Care and Support
Gustav Praekelt is the founder of
Praekelt Foundation, which was established in early 2007 in response to the opportunities created by
the rapid and unprecedented spread of mobile phones across Africa. Gustav, a
digital entrepreneur and obsessive technologist, saw how many of the mobile technologies
his consultancy developed could be used to give communities access to services and
information which had previously been inaccessible. His belief in the power of
mobile phones to transform Africa and the idea that technology should be
available to all inspired him to establish the foundation.